This morning, shortly after I woke up and before I could even have a coffee, I saw her post. Then Chandra's. Then Fern's.
From there, it was just a short and slippery slope down my own memory lane with its unruly unpruned hedges.
I don't know if you've heard of Lori's If I Die Today posts.Those of you who also follow her, will know what I'm talking about. I've always had problems answering the questions she poses. But I know one thing.
If I died today, I would regret not telling you about Jehan and Farouk.
I spent an hour, maybe more, this morning, digging up old pictures from dusty baskets that sit under a table. They're neatly organized into sandwich bags labelled Friends, Family, Brisbane, Sydney, Norway, Morocco and other places I've been lucky enough to visit in my life. My god. I was so young then! I had a crazy perm, a shape, legs and wore hotpants!
Many of the pictures were stuck together or had turned brown. None of them were digitally clear. But those sepia shadows made me cry like I haven't in a very long time.
Some things I don't like to think about because, quite frankly, they make me sad and they make me feel like a bad person. But I know there'll be no stopping now until I'm done with this post.
Jehan and Farouk were 2 dogs we had when we lived in Brisbane, more than 23 years ago. They were both pound puppies though I can't remember where exactly they came from.
Farouk was the first to be adopted.
Even as a pup, he was neurotic and could be aggressive. He chewed through half our backyard and was particularly fond of bromeliads. He got spanked a lot for that.
We got Jehan about 2 months later from a different pound.
He was about 3 or 4 months old, if I remember correctly, and had been dropped off by someone who'd moved to an apartment. When we first met him on a rainy day, he was filthy, had mangy fur, weepy sores, and the sweetest temperament you could hope for in a pup.
The first 2 years were uneventful. In those days, we didn't fuss over what kind of bones to give our dogs and whether their food should be organic. And [unlike some un-named pigdog], they never demanded that we walk them twice a day, rain or shine.
Rook and Han mostly played in the 1/4 acre backyard. A few times a week, they'd get taken out for leash walks. I don't remember there being any leash-free parks for dogs in the area though there was a pine forest where we'd take them sometimes.
Rook loved the smell of coffee and would sit by my side every morning, drooling as I had my morning mug on the back verandah. I thought he was a coffee addict reincarnated. I hesitate to say he was my dog because I know The Other Half will take exception to that. But I do think he was more my dog. We bonded over our neuroses.
Jehan was very devoted to [who else?] The Other Half. He would lie down by the gate all day, waiting for the man to come home from work. There was no shelter there and only gravel to sleep on, but he wouldn't come into the house even when it rained. This is the daft dog that once picked up a cane toad and lived to tell the tale.
So we decided the best thing to do would be to find them new homes.
You see why it's so hard for me to tell this story?
We put up signs at the produce shop, the butcher's and the vet's. We called around. I wrote a long letter about their quirks and put it in an envelope to be given to the new owners. Or, in the worst case scenario, to be dropped off at the pound, together with our boys.
Then, in the last week, with the worst case scenario looming, we realised we just couldn't do it.
So we called our rellies in Sydney instead and begged them to take Jehan and Farouk. Just for a while. Until we were settled. We would look after them. And pay for any damage. Please. Please. Please.
None of them were dog people so it was very fortunate for us that one of them finally said, "Yes."
I can't tell you how relieved and happy we were, but I know you can imagine.
A week later, we all piled into the station wagon towing a trailer loaded with some clothes, our CVs and other essentials, and Jehan and Farouk's worldly possessions. The rest of our house contents were put in storage, waiting for a place to call home.
We started off at 5am. I remember that clearly. The journey took more than 13 hours, with many stops along the way for the boys to stretch and pee. They used to love going for car rides but after that epic journey, neither of them were ever keen on cars again!
It was dark by the time we drove into Sydney where we immediately got lost for another hour before we finally arrived at the rellie's.
And there we gratefully stayed for the next couple of months until I found a job and we got our own place.
Our new home had a big back and front yard!
Every day, the boys got to meet and play with other neighbourhood dogs in the oval and green field just across a side road. There were a few nature reserves nearby too! [I wrote about one HERE, not too long ago.] It was a happy time for all of us.
But it was shortlived because I suddenly lost my job. The circumstances of that loss still makes me angry today, but it isn't relevant to this story so I'll not write about it.
The economy was in bad shape back then and with a mortgage, we did what we had to. When I was offered a job overseas, I jumped at it. The Other Half stayed back to keep trying for a job, and to look after Jehan and Farouk. It wasn't an ideal situation, but it was the only way we could think of to keep our boys.
A few months went by. The Other Half had to have an operation to fix a perforated eardrum. I thought I'd come home to cheer him up.
On the drive from the airport to the house, he told me that Farouk had been in an accident.
On the morning of the operation, The Other Half had wanted to give the boys a last walk before checking himself into the hospital. Rook had been hit by a car while crossing the quiet suburban side street to the oval. The impact was hard enough to fling him more than 3 meters away. The woman in the car stopped only long enough to raise her arms as if to say, "Why the hell did you get in my way!" Then she sped off.
Should Rook have been crossing the road off-leash? No. Could the woman have stopped in time or swerved away? Yes. Why didn't she do it? We don't know.
Farouk's left front leg was badly damaged.
He couldn't use it but the vet didn't think it was time to amputate. So we fashioned a sling for him. [I now wonder about that advice. What was the point of it? The leg would just have atrophied.]
Eventually though [it may even have been more than a month later], the leg started to agitate Rook and we knew it was time to remove it.
I remember being amazed at how easily and quickly he adapted to his 3 legs! Before we knew it, he was running on them like he'd been born a tripod!
With no local jobs available, The Other Half finally decided to join me. We would both be working long hours and staying in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in a crowded city. It wasn't going to be any suitable place for 2 big dogs that had grown up with space.
So we decided to rent our house out at "a very good price" with the proviso that the tenant take care of our boys. Looking back now, it seems an absurd idea. But we were desperate and in a hurry.
In actual fact, everything went well for quite a few months. Then one day, we got a call from our neighbour in Sydney. The tenants, they said, were no longer looking after our boys well.
So we took a month off and the next flight home to sort things out.
Some dogs are born into a good life or are lucky enough to find one. We had hoped to provide that life for our pound puppies, but it just didn't turn out that way.
The boys were only about 3 years old then. This time, we were able to find friends who agreed to take them. Though we tried our best to find them a home together, no one wanted 2 big dogs. So Jehan and Farouk had to go their separate ways.
Jehan stayed on in Sydney with a friend. A year or so later, that friend was offered a job overseas as well, and left Jehan with his sister. I managed to visit Han one time and found him in poor shape. His fur had become mangy again because no one was brushing him. He felt grimy. He didn't seem to remember me. I know he was sad. The Other Half never managed to see Jehan again, despite repeated requests.
You see, the friend had, over the years, become heavily addicted to drugs and was no longer the person he used to be. Sadly, he didn't even tell us when Jehan died.
Farouk was luckier. He ended up with friends who lived on a farm in Adelaide. He grew fat, fell into the pool chasing the family cats, was loved and died in the late 90s.
Neither I nor The Other Half ever saw him again after he left our family.
That last day, when the pet taxi came to pick Rook up to take him to the airport, I remember helping him into the van, giving him a big hug and telling him, "Don't be scared, Rooky. You'll be okay. I love you. Be good and we'll be together again soon."
I was still hopeful at the time that we would be home, maybe in a year. And because the boys had gone to friends, I thought we'd be able to get them back.
But then, you already know how it ends.
Jehan and Farouk never got to see each other again. And we never became a family again, as I had promised we would.
And for that, my boys, I need you to know something, however belated it is.
I'll always, always be sorry for the way your lives turned out. I wish we could go back to make amends, but we can't. So we're just going to do the best we can with the dogs we now have. Thank you for the lessons you taught us. Sorry for smacking you for the bromeliads, Rooky! And for blaming you, Han!
I love you both very much.
I want to end this post on a happy note so let me tell you a little joke. It was told to me by the friend in Adelaide who gave Farouk a home.
When she went to the airport to pick him up, the person who handed Rook over said to her -
I asked what kind of dog we'd be picking up today and you know what I was told?
"A 4-legged one."
And then the crate arrived and we opened it up.
Thank you for reading and good night x